IT Resume Advice for the Back-to-School Job Seeker

jennifer-hay@2x

By Jennifer L. Hay

Software engineers and project managers are just some of the IT professionals who regularly update their technical skills to stay competitive in the IT job market. Many professionals that I’ve worked with are very inquisitive and love to learn so it naturally fits into their career goals.  Over the last several years, online educational resources have blossomed, and a number of quality training courses are offered at relatively low costs. Lots of people are going back to school.

If you are one of those individuals, you’ll need to think about how to highlight your education in combination with your work experience.  People typically treat education as a single event on their resume — the graduation date or date that they completed a certificate program.  But it is a lost opportunity to exclude other information that will be of interest to a hiring manager.

I’ll use a lead software engineer, as an example. Robert was laid off from his job and decided to return to school to obtain a project management certification.  In his prior position, he worked as a project manager without the title, so his goal was to be formally recognized and employed as a project manager.

First, let’s look at the standard approach to including education in a resume – school name, graduation date, and major or certificate.  If the GPA was particularly impressive, that will be included as well. Boring … but it does document the facts.

  • Education
    University of Washington Extension, Certificate in Project Management (expected graduation June 20XX)

Now, let’s see how we can expand on this format. For those job seekers who used the advice of their school’s career center, they may have included the courses attended that are most relevant to the job search. This is definitely a good start to creating a standout resume.

  • Education
    University of Washington Extension, Certificate in Project Management (expected graduation June 20XX)
    Completed courses in project strategy and planning, project estimation, project control and risks, and project leadership and communications.

But don’t stop there – shift the passive message to one that is more active. Think in terms of why you returned to school.  What did you expect to learn that will help to advance your career? For our job seeker, Robert, he selected a 9-month certificate program that is entirely focused on his area of interest – project management – so we integrated that focus into his resume. Hiring managers like candidates who have a plan and demonstrate ability to follow through on the plan.

  • Education
    University of Washington Extension, Certificate in Project Management, expected completion June 20XX
    Finishing a Certificate in Project Management to strengthen skills in managing complex projects and leading cross-functional teams. Learning to apply best practices in project strategy and planning, project estimation, project control and risks, and project leadership and communications.

In the first part of this article, we reviewed how to optimize the education section of a resume for a recent graduate. Let’s take one more step to see how we can further integrate Robert’s education into the professional experience of his resume.  Some recruiters and hiring managers may balk at first when they find education listed in the experience section, but a resume is not designed to appeal to everyone, nor can it do so.  Robert’s goal is to find those individuals who will recognize his target plan and the contributions that he can make to an organization. Those individuals will see the wisdom of positioning his education as additional professional experience.

Let’s look at how education ultimately appears in his resume as a compelling statement.

Professional Experience
——————————————————————–

University of Washington Extension     20XX
Finishing a Certificate in Project Management to strengthen skills in managing complex projects and leading cross-functional teams. Learning to apply best practices in project strategy and planning, project estimation, project control and risks, and project leadership and communications.

EMR DEVICES, INC., Seattle, WA     2016 – 20XX
Recognized authority in digital, RF, and information domains. Revenues of $40M+ and 155+ employees.

Lead Systems Engineer, 2007–Present
Assumed a project manager role to successfully manage a 7-member team, working on 10+ projects simultaneously that required direction and coordination to effectively support all programs. Direct authority for planning, organizing, integrating, and completing the design, documentation, implementation, and test of new systems.

  • Directed department activities to design new products, modify existing designs, improve production techniques, and develop test procedures in accordance with customer specifications.
  • Developed an evaluation system for accurately assessing engineering skills based on ranking skill set to specifically designed scoring system. Used as a teaching aid to increase group efficiencies.

This format will not work for everyone, but for those job seekers who are a great fit their resume will raise to the top of a very large pile. There are several situations where I don’t recommend this format:

  • When returning for more extensive education such as a BS degree, use the more traditional format of separating your education from your experience section.
  • If you’ve completed less than 80% of the requirements for the certificate avoid the education-as-experience format. For this format to work, you must show strong progression toward achieving the goal and completing the program soon.
  • When taking general education courses avoid the education-as-experience format. This format requires a targeted effort specifically related to your career goals. In Robert’s resume, we even included the reason he was returning to school …’to strengthen skills in leading complex projects with cross functional teams.

About Jennifer Hay

I’ve been writing technical resumes and advising on career transitions for almost 15 years.

Throughout that time, I’ve read numerous articles about best practices for IT resume writing. What I found in those articles is a lot of bad information because it’s the same advice they give for non-technical professionals. This is important because IT resumes are different.

I built this website to share what I’ve learned in my career. I think you’ll find information on this website that will help make your IT resume a success.

jennifer-hay